A Senate investigation found that the evangelical Christian aid organization World Vision funneled U.S. taxpayer money to an Islamic group in Sudan that had supported Osama bin Laden and was under Treasury Department sanctions.
The report from the Oversight and Investigations Unit of the Finance Committee delivered to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the panel didn’t find evidence that World Vision was aware of the sanctions when it partnered with the Islamic Relief Agency.
“However, based on the evidence presented, we conclude that World Vision had access to the appropriate public information and should have known how, but failed to, properly vet ISRA as a sub-grantee, resulting in the transfer of U.S. taxpayer dollars to an organization with an extensive history of supporting terrorist organization and terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden,” the committee said in a memo to Grassley.
“Our review demonstrates this failure occurred because World Vision’s system for vetting prospective sub-grantees was borderline negligent and ignored elementary level investigative procedures, such as failing to conduct basic secondary research that is widely available to the public on the internet via free search engines.”
Grassley said World Vision’s assistance of people in need around the world is “admirable,” but it should have known that ISRA was on the sanctions list.
“Ignorance can’t suffice as an excuse. World Vision’s changes in vetting practices are a good first step, and I look forward to its continued progress,” he said.
Grassley’s investigative staff began the review in response to reports that government funds were ending up in the hands “of a foreign organization with ties to terrorism through regular non-profit work in February 2019.”
The investigation found that World Vision learned of the sanctions only when another non-profit aid group declined to work with them after doing their own due diligence and finding the affiliation between World Vision and the sanctioned ISRA, the senator said.
The Senate committee has jurisdiction over tax laws and “was concerned with the allegations that World Vision, a registered nonprofit entity, is potentially engaging in transactions that affect U.S. national security.”
Secondly, there were concerns about World Vision’s processes to investigate its partners, since the organization had taken more than $723,000 from USAID for a program in the Blue Nile region of Sudan.
It then entered into an agreement with ISRA to do some portions of that project.
It had worked with ISRA several times in 2013 and 2014.
But when the International Organization for Migration planned to join with World Vision on a project, it did routine “vetting” and discovered ISRA was under sanctions.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control in the Treasury Department then got involved.
The report said: “The Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) is headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan and maintains over 40 offices worldwide. The United States government placed sanctions on ISRA in 2004 after they had funneled approximately $5 million to Maktab Al-Khidamat, the predecessor to al-Qaida controlled by Osama Bin Laden. ISRA’s leadership also engaged in discussions to help relocate bin Laden to secure safe harbor for him. In the mid-2000’s, ISRA was responsible for moving funds to support a Palestinian terrorist. According to Treasury, when raising funds ISRA was known to display two ‘collection boxes marked ‘Allah’ and ‘Israel,’ signaling the funds would be directed towards attacks against Israelis.'”
In fact, the Obama administration, when the issue developed in 2014 and 2015, granted World Vision a special license to pay ISRA $125,000 that was owed.
World Vision also was given a “cautionary letter” warning its work with ISRA appeared to violate the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations.
The report said: “World Vision has a duty to ensure that funds acquired from the U.S. government or donated by Americans do not end up supporting terrorist activity. Particularly concerning to this committee is World Vision’s attempt to shift the blame to the federal government for their own inability to properly vet a subcontract.